New Social Learning … is It “New”?

Education rarely reinvents the wheel. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a number of great theorists, researchers, scholars, practitioners, and educators who have been utilizing connected and social learning ideas for decades.

In thinking about social learning for instructional design, I will turn to Bingham and Conner’s (2010) outline for how this is “new” in many of our organizations:

  • The new social learning is not just for knowledge workers – community-oriented.
  • Plays well with formal education to capture shared learning.
  • Compliments training and supplements development.
  • Similar but not the same as informal learning – more search and reading.
  • More than just online search and social networking.
  • Not like broadcasting information, more communal.
  • Allows for interaction and experiences to share ideas.

Image from Social Media Portal

Thomas and Brown (2011) inquire about the new culture of learning in their book, specifically asking: “What happens to learning when we move from stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change?”

I am thinking about this question a lot. A number of educators are looking for the “new” instead of asking questions and assessing the present practices. As a scholar-practitioner with perhaps faculty inklings, I have many concerns and questions for the future of our learning in higher education:

  1. Who (collaboratively) will best respond to the challenges and changes for our learning landscape on your campus?
  2. Why are educational changes and decisions being made? Is there assessment and evaluation? Data-driven decisions? Literature to support the change?
  3. What are we doing well & what can we improve upon in our face-to-face, online, and blended pedagogy in higher education?
  4. How are we thinking about connections, creativity, and social learning for our campus learning environments?
  5. When & how seek out the learners’ input for changes to our educational curriculum, campus programs, and student support services?

The idea of one idea, one thing, or one person to tackle the challenges/changes in higher education is ridiculous. If you think a “new” way to learn – perhaps a MOOC – will solve your university or college, then I am concerned about your strategic goals and learning outcomes. Take a gander at George Siemen’s recent #open13 talk [slides & video] to get a historical perspective on MOOCs (then and now), learning challenges, and other considerations for higher education pedagogy. [P.s. If you want to talk more MOOCs and research – y’all should come down to Texas for the 1st MOOC Research Conference in December]

One great take away from George’s talk (via a priest) about the upcoming shifts to higher education: “Don’t move away from things…because if you move away from things you don’t have a clue where you’re going to end up. Instead, move towards something.”

References

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media. Berrett-Koehler Store.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Siemens, G. (2013, November 7). MOOCs: How did we get here? Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2013/11/07/moocs-how-did-we-get-here/

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